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The Best Road Bike Tires For Racing Performance

Updated on May 6, 2013
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.

You need the right tires for road racing

Road racing puts demands on tires which means  that riders must pay attention to choose the best tire for road racing performance
Road racing puts demands on tires which means that riders must pay attention to choose the best tire for road racing performance | Source

A guide to some of the best road bike tires for racing

If you're looking to to do some road racing on your bike your need the right tires to enhance performance in terms of grip and speed.

Tires provide the important connection between your bike and the ground. They provide an element of 'road feel' and therefore are vital in providing feedback to the rider.

You need a racing tire that not only performs well in a straight line, but offers exceptional grip when cornering in a tight city criterium race. Road cycling conditions can vary from warm dry roads to a chilly wet day so your racing bike tires need to be able to perform well in all conditions.

There are a large number of race performance orientated road tires on the marketplace and this guide will focus a review of some of the best racing tires available today. Whether you're riding clincher, tubeless or tubular tires there should be a great option for you.

The best slick clincher tires for road racing- Schwalbe Ultremo ZX

If you're looking for the ultimate in racing speed a slick tread racing tire like the Schwalbe Ultremo ZX is a great option. The Ultremo ZX is also lightweight and offers grip whilst providing puncture resistance from it's HD SpeedGuard puncture resistant strip

The Ultremo ZX is a pure race performance tire however has been used as a day-to-day riding tire by many riders.

Schwalbe Ultremo ZX at Amazon

The slick Schwalbe Ultremo ZX
The slick Schwalbe Ultremo ZX | Source

Schwalbe Ultremo ZX

SCHWALBE Ultremo ZX Folding Tire with Vector Guard, 700cm x 28mm
SCHWALBE Ultremo ZX Folding Tire with Vector Guard, 700cm x 28mm
An ultra fast, race specific slick road bike tire that offers exceptional speed and cornering performance

Schwalbe Ultremo ZX Specification

Weight: 195g per tire (700c x 23mm size)

TPI (Threads per inch):127

Tread: Slick

Puncture Protection: HD (High Density) Speed Guard

The CyclingFitness review of the Schwalbe Ultremo ZX

I fitted a set of Ultremo ZX's to my road racing bike back in July 2012 as my sponsors were selling them at a fantastic price and I needed a new set of tires. Having heard good reports in the past I thought it was a good opportunity to give the ZX's a shot.

Having always riden race tires with more of a defined tread pattern using slick tread tires turned out to be a revelation. These tire just ooze speed.

The smooth slick tread means you can throw them into corners in a criterium safe in the knowledge that you have a consistent tread which feels fast and grippy in tight dry corners.

I've only had a couple of punctures over the course of 6 months riding which is what a rider should really expect in the course of around 8-10,000 km. For a competition tire they still have plenty of tread remaining too.

I've read a few reviews on the net of riders that have had durability issues but know of around 8-10 riders on the local club runs who have been using Schwalbe Ultremo tires for the past few years without problems and with minimal punctures on some pretty rough British roads. If you're looking for durability riders might want to consider a slightly heavier tire like a Vredestein Forezza Tricomp but the extra weight is noticeable in comparison. Fortezza Tricomps also make an excellent performance winter bike tire

Wet weather grip is good for a slick tire. The tread compound (RaceStar Triple Compound) feels exceptionally grippy in the dry and moderately so in the wet. They're good enough in wet conditions to road race on and feel predictable in damp conditions.

CF Verdict- A great lightweight road racing tire for the performance minded cyclist.

The right tire for racing will have exceptional cornering grip

You need the right tires for racing performance. Those tires need to provide grip on tight corners
You need the right tires for racing performance. Those tires need to provide grip on tight corners | Source

Fancy a tire with tread? Italian racing performance Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX

Vittoria's Open Corsa road tire is a long running Italian classic. It's latest incornation is the Evo CX which features Vittoria's traditional CX tread pattern combined with a new, improved Kevlar SiO2 3D compound with silica for reduced rolling resistance and better wet weather grip. Whilst the Evo CX's composite casing uses a blend of Polycotton and Kevlar threads at give a TPI of 290 for an extremely supple tire carcass which is aimed to provide maximum comfort at high inflation pressures. The Corsa Evo CX also features Vittoria's tried and tested PRB puncture resistant belt for protection.

Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX Tire Specification

Weight: 215g per tire (700c x 23mm size)

TPI (Threads per inch):320

Tread: Directionally grooved sides with a file tread centre.

Puncture Protection: PRB puncture protection belt

CyclingFitness Review Of The Vittoria Corsa Evo CX

I was lucky enough to get a set of tubular Open Corsa Evo CX tires thrown in with a set of tubular wheels I purchased a few years ago when they first came out on the market in their Evo format.

Vittoria are a company that have played around very little with their tire designs in the years i've been road racing and despite all the new models other companies produce there's no denying that Vittoria seem to be onto a good thing with the Evo CX.

The tread pattern is exceptionally good for road racing in all weathers. The external diagonal tread strips help to pull any water away from the tread profile for cornering performance in wet weather conditions and the file tread down the centre offers speed with a feeling of road handling. They're nowhere near to being as fast feeling as the Schwalbe Ultremo ZX's (above) however offer more of an all round racing performance as a result.

I had no personal issue in longevity. Vittoria tires have a bit of a history of being susceptible to cuts however until other Vittoria tires I've owned I had no worries with these. In fact I even sold the wheelset and the tires are still rolling on a friends time trial bike a few years after they started being used!

CF Verdict- If you're looking for a great all round road racing tubular these are a great option

The clincher version of the Open Corsa Evo CX is cited as being as close as a clincher can get to a tubular tire in terms of performance by Dave Atkinson of and that means that you're going to get exceptional performance in a clincher tire for road racing performance.

Road racing demands a fast tire to get ahead of the pack

The needs of road racing demand a fast tire for performance and to help you to stay away from the pack.
The needs of road racing demand a fast tire for performance and to help you to stay away from the pack. | Source

The Best Road Racing Tires For- Vorspung Durch Technik

If you're looking for German efficiency and engineering know-how in a racing tire it's always good to cast your eyes across bicycle tires from Continental. The Continental brand is particularly well known for their excellent Ultra Gatorskin Winter Training tire, however produce a large range of high performance road racing tires too.

The Continental Grand Prix range has for a long period been their racing specific tires and their current top model is the GP4000S. (The S is for Schwarz as the tire is only available in black). The tire features a plethora of technological features include a Vectran breaker protective strip and a specialist Black Chilli rubber which is stated to improve traction and rolling resistance.

Continental GP4000S Tires- All round racing tires

The GP4000S offers race performance and value for the racer looking for some german efficiency.

Continental GP4000S Tire Specification

Weight- 190g per tire

TPI- 330 Threads Per Inch

Tread- Slick centre section with cut away side panels along the edges of the tread. Featuring a Black Chilli compound which features a silica compound for grip and rolling resistance

Puncture protection- Vectran Anti-puncture strip

CyclingFitness review of the GP4000S road bike tire

The Continental GP4000S is a tire that does a lot of jobs well, without really excelling at anything. They're a good road racing tire if you're looking for a tire with a degree of longevity that many lightweight tires struggle with. I've raced a whole summer long on a set of GP4000S tires and they will happily ride part way into the following summer too.

The real let down personally with any Continental tire is road feeling. You can be riding along thinking that you're tires are deflating due to the lack of feeling the tires transmit from the road. The ride feel can be very muffled when many riders are looking for a tire that helps them really feel at one with the tarmac in terms of grip and response- particularly when you're looking at tires to offer road racing performance.

The mainly slick centre tread is fine on dry and damp roads however if there is any mud around the slickness means that the tire wants to skate over instead of provide some grip. I live in an area where there are a lot of tractors driving around and spreading some mud which puts the GP4000S are a disadvantage compared to a tire like the Vittoria Corsa Evo CX that has grooves in the tread to provide some additional traction in the mud.

The CyclingFitness Verdict on the GP4000S- A "jack-of-all-trade's" tire that will do a good job but really never excels at any form of riding.

The best road bike tires for climbing- Veloflex Record

If you're looking for a tire for road racing performance when the road heads up towards the sky the most important aspect you're looking for is lightness. You're looking for the lightest road bike wheels and tires possible.

The Veloflex Record Tire offers ultra-lightweight racing performance for the climbing specialist with an-old school file tread.

Veloflex Record Tire Specification

Weight- circa 150g per tire (very light!)

TPI- 350 Threads Per Inch

Tread- File tread pattern

Puncture Protection- Kevlar anti-puncture protection layer

CyclingFitness review of the Veloflex Record Clincher Tires

I purchased a set of Veloflex Record tires a number of years ago prior to a pre-season training camp out to the Spanish cyclists Mecca of Majorca on the advice of a couple of fellow travellers who recommended them as a great lightweight tire for when you have a lot of climbing to do. I was rather reluctant at the time but it was my first proper experience out into the mountains for some serious climbing so took the plunge and purchased a set as a pre-training camp treat.

Straight onto the roads of Majorca and you could tell these were a tire that oozed speed. The difference between the tires I had been racing on and the Veloflex Records in terms of how light they felt on the bike was amazing and gave the impression they would be a fantastic climbing tire.

The downside is that the lightness of the tire leads to poor durability and longevity issues. On the dry, relatively well maintained roads of Majorca I managed 500 miles over the course of a week and by the end of those 500 miles the tread had worn dramatically down the centre of the tire.

These are a fantastically light set of tires which are probably best suited to a climbing specific racing wheelset or for time trialling due to their raw speed where you're able to choose your line. They've also been used very successfully by many track riders as racing/ training tires which is probably where their main purpose lies.

The CyclingFitness verdict- If you're looking for fast tires for a special event Veloflex Record's are worth consideration. If your wallet allows and you're happy to have a racing only wheelset or tires.

Has this article helped your quest to find a great road racing tire?

4.2 out of 5 stars from 5 ratings of The CyclingFitness Best Road Race Tire Guide

What's your best tire for road racing performance?

We'd love to know what you think in the comments below about the best road racing tires

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Many thanks



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